The Northern Territory police commissioner has explained how the decision to prosecute a constable acquitted of murdering an Aboriginal teenager was made amid continuing calls for an inquiry into the investigation.
Commissioner Jamie Chalker also says he’s disappointed Zachary Rolfe believes the decision to charge him four days after Kumanjayi Walker was fatally shot in November 2019 was politically influenced.
“That is deeply sad for me. It is deeply sad for our police force,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“Someone has manipulated and created that lie and he has been hurt as a result and many people have been hurt and that is so deeply disappointing.”
Const Rolfe was acquitted on March 11 of all charges related to the death of Mr Walker, 19, during an attempted arrest in the Aboriginal community of Yuendumu, 290km northwest of Alice Springs.
Detectives, DPP made decision to charge Rolfe
Asked who made made the decision to charge Const Rolfe, Mr Chalker said it was the detectives investigating the fatal shooting and the Department of Public Prosecutions.
“There was no meeting that I was involved in,” he said, referring to Const Rolfe’s belief that the commissioner met with Chief Minister Michael Gunner and the DPP and the decision to charge him was politically influenced.
“It went through a criminal justice process. I was as shocked as anybody.
“As commissioner I’ve remained at arms length from the investigation and that continues to this day.”
‘Lie’ created division in community
Mr Chalker said the lie that the decision was politically influenced had created division in the community but not civil unrest, despite international focus on the incident.
He also said he couldn’t comment on some senior officers’ concerns about the speed of the decision to charge Const Rolfe.
“We can all wax lyrical about the speed of the charge but the truth of the matter is that in the NT charges of that nature can be laid relatively quickly,” he said.
Mr Chalker said he was also being cautious because more legal proceedings over Mr Walker’s death were under way, including the coronial inquest scheduled for September 5 in Alice Springs Local Court and civil processes.
“We have awareness that a number of civil bodies have attended many communities across the NT and we’ve already had some communication indicating intent,” he said.
“We also understand that through the coronial process they will be seeking access to the bar.”
Asked about Const Rolfe’s claim Mr Chalker had not contacted him in the two years since the murder charge was laid, the commissioner said he had authorised support for the 30-year-old.
He said he had regular meetings with NT Police Association president Paul McCue about support for the constable and given officers leave to attend court with him.